Season Preview and Expectations for the 2017-2018 Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles

Photo By Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

‘Fly Eagles Fly In 2017!’

As the end of August rolls around, Eagles fans alike get the same feeling every year. While it is hard to put that feeling into words, it is something between eager and anxious and it always boils over as week one of the regular season approaches.

Expectation Vs. Reality

Disregarding the fans who predict that, “This is the year we win it all!” most Eagles fans are still bubbling over with excitement and playoff hopes. These hopes are not irrational, barring the Eagles are fortunate and play on the higher end of realistic expectation. However, there is a very real possibility that this optimism turns out to be nothing but that, optimism.

The expectation is that Wentz, who is coming into his second season, will take a significant step forward with the additions to the wide receiving corps.

The signing of LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 18 touchdowns last season, is expected to alleviate some of the need for Wentz to pass so much. Blount is also expected to go get the short yardage the offense needs on the goal line, and on third and fourth down.

It is expected that the front seven of the defensive front will get to the quarterback early and often.

It is expected that the trade for Ronald Darby from the Buffalo Bills gives you a speedy, man cover cornerback, which improves the secondary marginally.

It is expected that Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz will use all the pieces he has on the defense to garner the best possible unit the roster can muster.

But after all, these are expectations, and the likelihood of all of these expectations panning into reality is slim.

There are some hard realities with this roster. The Eagles roster has holes, big ones. They are bringing in two new starting wide receivers, who lack long term chemistry with their new quarterback, Carson Wentz. They are under a head coach most of the fan base does not believe in, and it’s possible the locker room reflects the same feeling.

Let’s break down what has the most impact on the success or failure of the 2017-2018 Philadelphia Season:

Carson Wentz

There is only one place to start and it is with the QB1. Wentz is coming into his second season in the NFL and the unit around him is looking far different than last year.

Wentz last year had one of the worst wide receiving corps in football. The unit led the league in drops, and lacked talent in droves. However, that did not stop Wentz from breaking the NFL rookie record for completions. Wentz had a great season, given his situation. However, his 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions are not the prettiest stat line to look at.

This year, Wentz should throw less passes, take less hits, and have less dropped passes. If these things happen, the Eagles will improve as a team. Wentz has been given three new weapons through free agency and a few through the draft that can help facilitate a huge step forward in his second season.

Now he has the pieces around him, and the biggest variable to the Eagles success and failure is Wentz himself.

Offensive Line and the Running Game

Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Philadelphia Eagles have the best offensive line in football, not their division rivals the Dallas Cowboys.

PFF is used by many football teams, and their insight is strictly objectively and statistically based. Whether it looks like it on the field or not, the Eagles offensive line has some of the most upside at their position group in the NFL. It is time to back up PFF’s observation.

If the Eagles are going to be a playoff team and take a step forward, they must keep Carson Wentz off the turf, be disciplined, and improve their run blocking. Their preseason performance this year does not imply this will occur. Head Coach Doug Pederson says they are keeping things under wraps for the regular season, and for the Eagles sake, let’s hope so.

The Philadelphia Eagles have the best right and left tackle combination in the NFL, not the Dallas Cowboys. Lane Johnson must be on the field, and last year showed that to be true. Jason Peters must continue his Hall of Fame deserving play.

Many football fans fail to realize how many games are won in the trenches, meaning the offensive and defensive line. The offensive line will determine how long Wentz has in the pocket to throw. They will determine most of new addition Blount’s success. They determine how many big plays will be called back due to holding and other penalties.

Blount has looked mediocre this preseason, and it is unlikely that will change dramatically when the regular season comes around. The Eagles did not sign the RB to score another 18 TDs like he did last season, but they did sign him to be a tough runner and to punch the ball over the first down line or goal line in short yardage situations. Blount does not need to be a three down back, but he cannot be a ghost in this offense if they plan to reverse their fortune in short yardage situations.

Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith

These two players have the highest expectations to live up to. Eagles’ fans can hardly still believe Alshon Jeffrey will be wearing midnight green this season. Torrey Smith is the first deep threat the team has had since the sensational Desean Jackson left town.

With a true number one wide receiver in the offense, fans around the league cannot wait to see how Wentz will progress.

Torrey Smith gave the fans a taste of what could be this season in last Thursday’s preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, burning former Eagles corner Byron Maxwell deep for a 50-yard touchdown. Alshon’s health and discipline are largely unproven throughout his career, and his dedication and health this year will have a tremendous effect on the Eagles offensive production this season.

The Defense

The defense for this purpose can be lumped into one section. Most fans see the defense as weaker than the offense. On paper, they absolutely are. Aside from the ferocious defense line the Eagles have, there are plenty of holes on the Eagles defense. The linebackers lack both skill and depth. Aside from Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks, the eagles are barren at linebacker. Mychal Kendricks has had a phenomenal preseason, but he requested a trade this year and still wants out of Philadelphia. It is also not a secret that the Eagles are shopping the LB who has never quite lived up to his expectations and looked like a ghost of his former self last season. If the Eagles do not get an offer they believe is worth the value of the LB he will stick around for the season, but can one expect his preseason play to carry over to week one when the player does not want to play for the Eagles?

Even with Kendricks, if one of the two top LBs on the team goes down, they could enter a panic. They do not have the depth to deal with a long-term injury to either Hicks or Bradham if they want be on the fringe of being an elite defense.

The secondary, mostly the corners, is a whole other mess to itself. The addition of Ronald Darby gives the Eagles secondary a starting caliber corner at the age of 23. A young promising cornerback has eluded the Eagles for some time, but now it appears they have one.

Other than Darby, the Eagles corners are deprived of proven talent at CB. Mills, a former seventh round pick will be starting on the opposite side of Darby. Mills is raw, with some major upside for a seventh rounder. However, he is largely unproven and has an enormous task of covering the NFC East wide receivers six times this season. Patrick Robinson best chance to succeed is in the slot, in nickel packages, and luckily for him and the Eagles, that is where he is slated to be, thanks to the Eagles addition of Darby. The Eagles also drafted cornerbacks in the second and third rounds in this year’s NFL draft. Sidney Jones in round two and Rasul Douglas in round three. Jones is likely to sit out the entirety of the season nursing a torn Achilles. Jones had potential to be a top ten draft pick before his injury at Washington’s pro day, allowing the Eagles to risk their second round pick on the idea that he could return to form after he recovers.

This leaves Douglas as the most promising rookie corner on the team this year. Douglas, from West Virginia is a big bodied corner, but lacks speed. It is going to be an adjustment for Douglas, going from practicing against Shelton Gibson, who the Eagles also drafted from West Virginia, to playing against the likes of Odell Beckham Junior twice in a season.

Best Case Scenario:

Wentz excels with new weapons, as Alshon Jeffrey combine for 1800 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Blount allows the Eagles to get the important short yard gains when they need them. Lane Johnson plays 16 games. Darby slows the best receiver on the opposing team every week and rookie Derrek Barnett gets 8 sacks his first year in the NFL. If that happens: 10-6

Worst Case Scenario:

Wentz shows little improvement with new weapons. Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith never quite jell with their quarterback. Blount continues to struggle running the ball in this system like he has in preseason. The Eagles lose a few starters on their offensive line to injury. Darby is in over his head as a 23-year-old corner facing the best receivers the world can offer. My prediction: I predict a strong second season showing for Wentz, with more pieces around him, and more weapons at his disposal.

My prediction is that the Eagles will finish 9-7, limited only by their offensive’s inability to score more than their leaky secondary will allow.

Prediction by Jeff Belonger – Founder & President of MyPhillyAlive: 10 – 6

Photo By Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

Max Mangigan

Junior at Temple University | Journalism Major | Die hard Philadelphia sports fan | Contributer for @bballsociety_ (Twitter)

More Posts - Twitter

Comment Using Facebook

Speak Your Mind

*